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10 Oct 2018

Northern Ireland: challenges and opportunities for post -Brexit environmental governance

Brexit represents a major change to environmental governance in Northern Ireland and the UK. Yet it is occurring at a time when Northern Ireland has no government, curtailing its ability to engage in both local and UK-wide preparations. Northern Irish stakeholders are worried that tensions between England and Scotland are dominating Brexit preparations, hampering discussions of UK-wide cooperation, as well as of the specific needs of Northern Ireland.

This report outlines key points including

  • Northern Ireland is in many ways a unique case for post-Brexit environmental governance: it has extensive cooperation with Ireland on environmental issues and the Irish border is a key issue in Brexit negotiations. However, the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive means that its concerns are not strongly represented in cross-UK
    discussions.
  • Northern Ireland has long lagged behind the UK (and most of the EU) in terms of the quality of its environmental governance. As a result, strategies to address post Brexit governance gaps in Northern Ireland must also consider pre-existing domestic governance weaknesses.
  • An independent environment agency should be established as a matter of urgency (to further align Northern Ireland with best practice in environmental governance) and a separate environment commissioner should be appointed who can participate in a UK-wide environmental watchdog.
  • Common UK environmental frameworks must be created. There should be a presumption in favour of transparent legislative frameworks underpinned by common¬†standards and principles to avoid gaps in implementation and to create the conditions for successful policy coordination and cooperation.
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